BREAKING: Visual Effects (VFX) crews at Marvel Studios have filed for a unionization election with the National Labor Relations Board, Monday.
The move signals a major shift in an industry that has largely remained non-union since VFX was pioneered during production of the first Star Wars films in the 1970s. A supermajority of Marvel’s more than 50-worker crew had signed authorization cards indicating they wished to be represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
This marks the first time VFX professionals have joined together to demand the same rights and protections as their unionized colleagues in the film industry. Mark Patch, VFX Organizer for IATSE, highlighted the significance of this moment: “For almost half a century, workers in the visual effects industry have been denied the same protections and benefits their coworkers and crewmates have relied upon since the beginning of the Hollywood film industry. This is a historic first step for VFX workers coming together with a collective voice demanding respect for the work we do.”
While positions like Production Designers/Art Directors, Camera Operators, Sound, Editors, Hair and Makeup Artists, Costumes / Wardrobe, Script Supervisors, Grips, Lighting, Props, and Paint, among others, have historically been represented by IATSE in motion picture and television, workers in VFX classifications historically have not.
Bella Huffman, VFX Coordinator, highlighted the challenging nature of the industry: “Turnaround times don’t apply to us, protected hours don’t apply to us, and pay equity doesn’t apply to us. Visual Effects must become a sustainable and safe department for everyone who’s suffered far too long and for all newcomers who need to know they won’t be exploited.”
The Marvel VFX workers’ filing for a union election comes at a pivotal moment in the film and television industry, amidst ongoing strikes by both the Actors and Writers guilds as both seek fair contracts with the studios and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb put it in plain terms, “We are witnessing an unprecedented wave of solidarity that’s breaking down old barriers in the industry and proving we’re all in this fight together. That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Entertainment workers everywhere are sticking up for each other’s rights, that’s what our movement is all about. I congratulate these workers on taking this important step and using their collective voice.”